For years, corporate marketing was largely walled off from the rest of the enterprise. But today collaboration is critical to success, from the CMO level on down to marketing’s front lines. Indeed, strategic partnering within the enterprise is required if CMOs are to overcome the challenges of resource constraints and channel proliferation to truly innovate, says Lisa Arthur, CMO at Aprimo, a provider of on-demand marketing automation software. A 25-year marketing veteran who has worked in corporate marketing roles at technology companies, including Oracle and Akamai, and in the agency world, Arthur argues that CMOs must repair broken relationships with their C-level cousins, particularly in information technology and sales, to create effective and meaningful marketing and business strategies.
CMO.com contributing writer Stephanie Overby spoke with Arthur about the challenges of the modern CMO, her insider tips on how to move from arm wrestling to embracing with technology and sales, and the real meaning of meaningful marketing.
CMO.com: You’re a big advocate for CMOs collaborating across the enterprise. Why are strategic partnerships critical to corporate marketing success today?
Lisa Arthur: Through our polling, we have found that more than 50 percent of CMOs across the world are focused on innovating the customer experience. That is their No. 1 strategy, regardless of industry and across business-to-business and business-to-consumer enterprises.
You take that and add to it the post-economic crisis that we’re in. CMOs’ budgets and their teams have been cut to the bone, and it’s not going to get any better.
Take the need to innovate within these resources and budget constraints, and add to that the proliferation of marketing channels. Social is continuing to grow, and the sophistication of digital marketing is growing. There are channels emerging that we don’t even know about yet.
You take all of those dynamics, and that’s why collaboration within the enterprise is critical. CMOs can’t innovate the customer experience without the help of the CIO and without the help of sales and HR and all the other functions across the company.
CMO.com: It sounds like a tough time to be a CMO.
LA: While the landscape has changed--and it is going to continue to change at amazing rates—there has never been a better time to be a marketer. You have the opportunity to redefine and elevate and be a driver of the business rather than just being the brand advocate or the demand-generation engine.
CMO.com: Let’s talk about alignment with the IT organization. Why is that crucial for marketers?
LA: The first truth is that most global companies express their fundamental business strategy through IT, and customer experience falls into that. At the same time, business success today is more about marketing than ever before. And marketing is executed through IT more than ever before.
One provocative idea is that we’re all CMOs and CIOs today. IT needs to work with marketers, and marketers need to be in touch with technology. CMOs must understand how to use technology to innovate, to do more with less, to be more accountable, and to get the investment they need.
CMO.com: Why has it taken so long for CMOs and CIOs to join forces--and why do some still resist working together?
LA: From my purview over the past 30 years, there has been a clear distinction between the CIO and CMO. And in many regards it has been an arm wrestle of a relationship. I’m in my fourth gig as a CMO; in the past, the requests and requirements that marketing has for technology have fallen very far down the list from the requests of sales and finance and other functions seen as revenue-critical. At the same time, marketing was very stove-piped, and collaboration with IT was nonexistent.
What’s interesting is that I have met several CMOs today who also function as CIOs. We’re seeing the emergence of bringing marketing and IT together from that title perspective, or through marketers having IT expertise within their teams. Cloud computing is another example. Many marketers are turning to cloud and software-as-a-service options because there’s less dependency on IT to get things done.
The companies that we see leading this marketing revolution--letting go of the brand, driving greater value, and seeing increased return on marketing investment--are finding a way to bring marketing and IT together. The lynchpin is that the business doesn’t have a choice.
CMO.com: What’s your relationship like with IT?
LA: It’s exceptional. We use our own software. It’s cloud-based and ready to go, so we’re able to add new capabilities within my team even though they’re not IT people.
When we do work with IT, we collaborate about data strategies and improving the customer experience. IT understands the value of marketing because we have a closed loop view of it. That makes it easy for me to get resources when I need it. I may not be first, but I have the right business metrics to make the value clear. Our relationships with CIOs continue to improve now that Aprimo has been acquired by Teradata, as Teradata has long been a strategic technology partner to CIOs globally.
The critical opportunity CMOs miss when they delegate IT.
CMO.com: Do you have any advice for CMOs about embracing technology?
LA: The CMO should understand the implications of technology and how it can drive marketing value. Some CMOs delegate the responsibility to understand technology to one person or a team, as if to say, “You can work it out. I can’t think about that.” But when he or she delegates, the CMO could be missing a big strategy opportunity to embrace IT
The second piece of advice--which is contrary to the way most of us are wired--is to start small and don’t be afraid to fail. Evaluate, execute, and evolve. Many times CMOs are so visionary that they will try to go for the Hail Mary to get where they need to go very fast. We’re change agents and need to be. But we try too much too soon or don’t drive change management to bring the larger organization along.
When I talk about not being afraid to fail, many times people will look at a failure as not achieving objectives. I counsel marketers to have an end game in mind, but also to put a first goal out there. Let’s say you need to change the way you are managing your ad budget to drive theater sales. You need to get a handle on box-office sales, bring that into your ad spend, and figure out the correlation between ad spend and box-office draws so you can throttle the media mix for the next weekend. The end goal is real-time mix optimization. To do that it might be best to start with one theater and one geographical area around it. You’ll have failures and lessons learned, and then broaden it out. Instead, everyone either goes for the big bang or they start small and pull the plug at the first sign of failure. But the best lessons come from things that didn’t work out.
Third, you’ve got to involve IT early and often in setting up strategy. The key is inspiring them to be part of this innovation and quest. Show them that they can do something new. Most CIOs love new things. Bring the IT organization along with you versus just looking at it from a project perspective.
Finally, evaluate your language. Seth Godin talks about tribes. There are many tribes within marketing and many tribes within IT, and they each have their own language. You need to develop a vocabulary that both teams can use.
CMO.com: How about sales? Why is there such a chasm between sales and marketing?
LA: There’s a lot of arm wrestling between marketing and sales, too. Sales feels like marketing doesn’t listen and, when it does, it’s still dragging its own agenda. Marketing feels dragged behind the cart of sales. And the two groups are wired very differently. Sales is focused on the month or the quarter at hand--very short-term. Marketing is visionary and strategic--very long-term. Sales is yelling, ‘I don’t have enough leads’ or, ‘These leads stink.’ And marketing says, ‘I’ve got a program coming in nine months that’s going to knock your socks off.’
Too many CMOs are stuck in the corner as demand-generation engines. It’s not just about demand generation, and I’ve had some heated debates in Silicon Valley on that front. You do have to prove the value of marketing through critical deliverables to have a conversation on equal footing with sales, but you have to go beyond that.
At Aprimo, both marketing and sales use our own marketing software and salesforce automation tools. We’ve embedded marketing information in our sales app because sales is wired to use that tool. And in marketing we can track what’s happening in sales through our marketing systems--leads, revenue in relation to demand creation, conversion rates. That makes our conversations with sales a scientific business discussion. Once that happens, marketing has the ability to branch out and better support that sales function.
CMO.com: Everyone seems to be talking about meaningful marketing--the idea that the enterprise must engage the customer in ways that are socially significant. Is it more than just a fad?
LA: It goes beyond buzz, but like all things it has to have some teeth to get there. Part of it is having meaningful actions that are backed up with meaningful words.
The one word we hear more from our sales team and from our customers than any other is “relevance.” They want to know who their customers are through all the channels and know what they want--whether they’ve expressed it implicitly or explicit--so that they can have a meaningful conversation with them. That builds credibility. I’ve seen our customer Jim Cavedo, senior director of consumer marketing at International Speedway Corp., drive amazing relevance among the company’s fan base and navigate very successfully in a tough economy. Meaningful actions backed up by meaningful words create relevance.
The CMO has to be the change agent to innovate the customer experience. They have to take an active hand in setting the right strategies and objectives to drive the business. I heard the CMO of FedEx say, “If CMOs aren’t making the rest of the organization uncomfortable, they’re not doing their jobs.” That’s what I mean.